Robertson leads NATPE revolt

Warner Bros. Domestic Television president Dick Robertson dropped a bomb
Tuesday morning, telling reporters the studio is essentially abandoning the
National Association of Television Programming Executives and taking other major
syndicators with it.

By Tuesday afternoon, an enraged NATPE president Bruce Johansen fired back,
calling Robertson a 'hypocrite.'

On Tuesday morning, Robertson outlined a new business model for the domestic
syndication industry that will likely result in a first-ever syndication-upfront
presentation in New York this March for advertisers and a Los Angeles-based
syndication screening event in Los Angeles in the fall for local stations,
sponsored by the syndicators themselves through their trade organization, the
Syndicated Network Television Association.

'Mr. Robertson has been vocal over the past couple of years about this
conference, and I think he has been hypocritical,' Johansen said. 'He has
indicated to me personally that he is supportive of our educational activities,
that he is supportive of us as a nonprofit organization, and I don't see that

Johansen added, 'I am also a little surprised because in a way he is a
self-appointed shepherd with the sheep following the shepherd. I don't know who
appointed him king, but I guess he feels he is king of syndication.'

NATPE chairman Jon Mandel, whose media-buying company works closely with Warner Bros., said,
'I'm just shocked that otherwise smart, sometimes very smart people do some very
dumb things.'

Told of Johansen's and Mandel's comments, Robertson responded, 'Jon Mandel
and Bruce Johansen are both good friends of mine for whom I have a great deal of
respect. I'm sorry they feel that way.'

In fact, Mandel floated the idea of industry meetings much like the ones
Robertson is now planning, except Mandel hoped that NATPE would organize

Now, he said, it appears that there's a difference of opinion among ad buyers
about a March meeting, questioning whether that's the optimal time to get the
best rates.

At the same time, NATPE has a committee studying the ways the organization
could change as the shape of the business changes. It is due to give its
recommendations this spring.

At his welcoming speech to attendees Tuesday, Johansen once again
acknowledged that the organization had to make adjustments.

Buena Vista Television, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and a number of other top
syndication distributors confirmed that they are all on board for the two
events, adding that the plan is going to be fleshed out at a breakfast meeting
among syndicators.